Monday, January 29, 2007

Does Your Email Font Make a Difference?

A psychological study was done with a group of participants using 3 different font types: Calibri, Comic Sans and Gigi.

The results were pretty interesting considering that the exact same document was shown to the participants.

Ethos Questions
(1-7 scale)
Calibri m(SD) Comic m(SD) Gigi m(SD)
How knowledgeable is the author 4.80 (1.36) 4.80 (1.44) 4.08 (1.46)

How would you rate the information provided 5.60 (.95) 5.48 (1.11) 4.78 (1.25)

Author described as professional 4.53 (1.52) 4.18 (1.48) 3.05 (1.24)

Author described as mature 4.88 (1.20) 4.63 (1.23) 3.55 (1.30)

Author described as trustworthy
5.33 (.92) 5.28 (1.09) 4.33 (1.12)

The results from this study suggest there is a relationship between typeface selection and the reader’s perception of an email.

The email presented in the typeface that was judged in previous studies to be low in appropriateness for email (Gigi) was perceived to be less stable, less practical, more rebellious, and more youthful than either Calibri (highly appropriate) or Comic Sans (moderately appropriate).

This finding suggests that documents presented in typefaces that are viewed as less appropriate are seen as less serious and less professional in nature. The appropriateness of the typeface also affected the perception of the email author in that the email using Gigi created a perception of an author who is less professional, less trustworthy, and less mature. Finally, the typeface that was lower in appropriateness led participants to conclude that the author was a lower level trainee employee.

When choosing a typeface for a document, the level of appropriateness should be taken into account in order to avoid sending unintentional messages. The results did not find significant differences between the moderately and highly appropriate typefaces. In previous work Shaikh, Chaparro, and Fox (2006) found that Comic Sans was perceived as happier, more cuddly, younger, and more passive than Calibri. However, in the present study, significant differences were not found on these adjectives. A possible explanation for this is that Comic Sans has become so commonly used, that readers have become immune to its casual, happy nature. The millions of people that email friends, family members, and co-workers should be aware of the fact that typeface can have an effect on the perception of the content.

Typefaces should be chosen to reflect the message of the content and care should be taken to ensure that the typeface does not conflict with the intentions of the author.more

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